Peel Island

Last updated

Peel Island
Native name:
Teerk Ro Ra
Sunrise at peel.jpg
Sunrise at Horseshoe Bay, Peel Island
Geography
Location Moreton Bay
Coordinates 27°30′S153°21′E / 27.500°S 153.350°E / -27.500; 153.350 Coordinates: 27°30′S153°21′E / 27.500°S 153.350°E / -27.500; 153.350
Area590 ha (1,500 acres)
Length1 km (0.6 mi)
Width3 km (1.9 mi)
Administration
Australia
State Queensland
Region South East Queensland
Local government area Redland City

Peel Island
Queensland
Population0 (2016 census) [1]
 • Density0.00/km2 (0.00/sq mi)
Postcode(s) 4184
Area12.4 km2 (4.8 sq mi)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10:00)
LGA(s) City of Redland
State electorate(s) Oodgeroo
Federal Division(s) Bowman
Suburbs around Peel Island:
Moreton Bay Moreton Bay Moreton Bay
Dunwich Peel Island Moreton Bay
Moreton Bay Moreton Bay Moreton Bay
Peel Island
Huts constructed for patients on Peel Island Moreton Bay 1907.jpg
Huts constructed for patients on Peel Island, Moreton Bay, 1907
Built1870s–1960s
Owner Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Official name: Peel Island, Moreton Bay
TypeHealth and care services: Lazaret/leprosarium
Criteria
  • A: The evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history
  • B: Rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage
  • E: Its aesthetic significance
Designated21 June 1993

Peel Island (Indigenous: Teerk Ro Ra) is a small heritage-listed island located in Moreton Bay, east of Brisbane, in South East Queensland, Australia. The island is a locality within the local government area of Redland City. [2] [3] In the 2016 census, Peel Island had a population of 0 people. [1]

Moreton Bay bay in Queensland, Australia

The Moreton Bay is a bay located on the eastern coast of Australia 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from central Brisbane, Queensland. It is one of Queensland's most important coastal resources. The waters of Moreton Bay are a popular destination for recreational anglers and are used by commercial operators who provide seafood to market.

Brisbane capital city of Queensland, Australia

Brisbane is the capital of and the most populated city in the Australian state of Queensland, and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has a population of approximately 2.5 million, and the South East Queensland metropolitan region, centred on Brisbane, encompasses a population of more than 3.6 million.

South East Queensland Region in Queensland, Australia

South East Queensland (SEQ) is a bio-geographical, political, and administrative region of the state of Queensland in Australia, which contains more than 3.6 million people out of the state's population of 5.1 million. The area covered by South East Queensland varies, depending on the definition of the region, though it tends to include Queensland's three largest cities: the capital city Brisbane; the Gold Coast; and the Sunshine Coast. Its most common use is for political purposes, and covers 22,420 square kilometres (8,660 sq mi) and incorporates 11 local government areas, extending 240 kilometres (150 mi) from Noosa in the north to the Gold Coast and New South Wales border in the south, and 140 kilometres (87 mi) west to Toowoomba.

Contents

During the mid-19th century, Peel Island was used as a quarantine station for the colony of Brisbane. Sailing ships would anchor to the north of the island, and the passengers would disembark on Peel Island for a quarantine period before moving on to Dunwich on nearby North Stradbroke Island. The arriving sailing ships would be fumigated and scrubbed down with carbolic to sanitise them before they ventured on to Brisbane with the new arrivals. [4] Remains of the old quarantine station are at the southwest corner of the island, where the old well can be found.

Dunwich, Queensland Town in Queensland, Australia

Dunwich, known as Goompi by the Quandamooka people, is a small town and locality on the western side of North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia. Dunwich is part of the Redland City local government area, administered from the bayside town of Cleveland on the Queensland mainland. In the 2016 census, Dunwich had a population of 864 people.

North Stradbroke Island Island that lies within Moreton Bay in the Australian state of Queensland

North Stradbroke Island, colloquially Straddie or North Straddie, is an island that lies within Moreton Bay in the Australian state of Queensland, 30 kilometres (19 mi) southeast of the centre of Brisbane. Before 1896 the island was part of the Stradbroke Island. In that year a storm separated it from South Stradbroke Island, forming the Jumpinpin Channel. The Quandamooka people are the traditional owners of North Stradbroke island.

Peel Island was used as an asylum for vagrants from Brisbane around the start of the 20th century, but the conditions were too harsh and the inmates were moved to Dunwich, on nearby Stradbroke Island. Peel Island was also used as a sisal farm. The inmates would harvest the sisal and manufacture rope which was sold to help fund the asylum. Remnants of the sisal plantations are still visible when walking around the western side of the island.

Sisal species of plant, sisal

Sisal, with the botanical name Agave sisalana, is a species of Agave native to southern Mexico but widely cultivated and naturalized in many other countries. It yields a stiff fibre used in making various products. The term sisal may refer either to the plant's common name or the fibre, depending on the context. It is sometimes referred to as "sisal hemp", because for centuries hemp was a major source for fibre, and other fibre sources were named after it.

Between 1907 and 1959 the island was a leper colony. [5] The island is only accessible by watercraft. Dugongs, turtles, and dolphins frequent the waters around the island. There are often thousands of jellyfish following the surrounding currents, and sharks are known to inhabit these waters. Horseshoe Bay, with its sandy beach, is popular with boating visitors. It is a common overnight anchorage for sailors, considered by many to be the best shelter from northerly winds in Moreton Bay.[ citation needed ] Sea kayakers also use the island for overnight stays. The island is known for its natural environment, with bird and animal life largely undisturbed by pollution. Up to 74 bird species have been identified. [5]

Leper colony

A leper colony, lazarette, leprosorium, or lazar house was historically a place to quarantine people with leprosy. The term lazaretto, which is derived from the biblical figure Saint Lazarus, can refer to quarantine sites, which were at some time also "colonies", or places where people affected by leprosy lived or were sent. Many of the first lazarettes were operated by Christian monastic houses. Leper hospitals exist throughout the world to treat those afflicted with leprosy, especially in Africa, Brazil, China and India.

In 2007, the island was declared as Teerk Roo Ra National Park and Conservation Park. [5] There are limited facilities in Peel Island; however, there is a toilet block. Tracks which were used when the island was a leper colony can now be used to walk across the island. The leper colony's housing is currently being restored,[ when? ] possibly for school camps, but there is asbestos in some of the housing used for Indigenous Australians housed there. After the island was decommissioned as a leper colony, it was discovered that the strain of leprosy which infected its inhabitants was non-contagious.

Asbestos Group of highly stable, non-flammable silicate minerals with a fibrous structure

Asbestos is a term used to refer to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. All are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals, each fiber being composed of many microscopic 'fibrils' that can be released into the atmosphere by abrasion and other processes. Asbestos is an excellent electrical insulator and is highly resistant to heat, so for many years it was used as a building material. However, it is a well known health hazard, and today its use as a building material is banned in many countries. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to various serious lung conditions, including asbestosis and cancer.

Indigenous Australians are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, descended from groups that existed in Australia and surrounding islands before British colonisation. The time of arrival of the first Indigenous peoples on the continent and nearby islands is a matter of debate among researchers. The earliest conclusively human remains found in Australia are those of Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP. Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP. Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP. Evidence of fires in South-West Australia suggest 'human presence in Australia 120,000 years ago', although more research is required. Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years and 125,000 years BP.

Leprosy Chronic infection caused by bacteria Mycobacteria lepræ and lepromatosis

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, a person who is infected does not have symptoms and typically remains this way for 5 to 20 years. Infection can lead to damage of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This nerve damage may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of a person's extremities from repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. An infected person may also experience weakness and poor eyesight.

The Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef has been constructed to the north of Peel Island. [6]

Geography

Peel Island is situated in the southern half of Moreton Bay on the east coast of Australia, approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Brisbane, Queensland, and 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the town of Cleveland. The island lies between Cleveland Point and Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island and is fringed with mudflats, seagrass, coral reefs and mangroves. The island covers an area of approximately 400 hectares (990 acres), and extends for 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north to south and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) east to west. Horseshoe Bay, running in an unbroken arc along the southern side of the island, provides clean, sheltered waters for swimming.

Peel Island Lazaret

Peel Island operated as a lazaret from 1907–1959. [5] The Peel Island lazaret is important to Queensland history because of its social and political significance in terms of state health policy, serving as a reminder of the conditions in which people lived and worked on the island.

Background

The lazaret (lazaretto, leper colony or leprosaria) in Queensland was established to isolate those infected with leprosy. [7] The influx of migrants to Queensland after free settlement brought leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, to Australia. [8] Hansen’s disease has had a history of forced patient isolation from society, and Queensland’s Leprosy Act of 1892 was an example of legislation intended to isolate leprosy patients from the mainland. [9]

Peel island caretaker cottage Peel island caretaker cottage.jpg
Peel island caretaker cottage

Before Peel Island was used as a lazaret in 1907, it was used for a number of other purposes by colonial and Queensland governments, as well as being occupied by Australian Indigenous people. [8] Before British colonial settlement in Australia, Indigenous people lived on Peel Island, with the land used as a feasting and ceremonial site. [10] Archaeological studies show evidence of Indigenous occupancy through the presence of several midden sites. Into the 1800s, Peel Island, as well as North Stradbroke Island, was used as a quarantine station by the New South Wales colonial government which "housed persons considered unsuitable for mainstream society". [8] Subsequently, the quarantine station developed into an inebriates' asylum, and then later a lazaret in 1907. [8] There were already two established lazarets in Queensland: one on Friday Island and another on Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island. Both were closed due to varied criticism of conditions and treatment of patients. Subsequently, the Peel Island lazaret was established as a replacement. [11] [12] Peel Island was used for multiple purposes at any given time by the government, but was specifically chosen over North Stradbroke Island to permanently establish the lazaret. [8]

Conditions

Particularly under earlier operations of the lazaret, the isolation of Peel Island more resembled incarceration than that of a medical institution for ill patients. In many instances, sufferers were removed from their families and communities without notice or an opportunity to say goodbye. [9] [13] Patients were often locked up or chained by police before they were taken to the lazaret. [14] There have been several accounts of patients being trawled behind a charter ship, isolated on a dinghy en route to the island. [13] Once, at the facility, patients sought help from the outside community and the press in order to improve the dreadful conditions to which they were subjected. [15] Because the lazaret was designed around the principle of isolation, each patient was housed in a separate hut, then grouped into three compounds according to gender, race and severity of illness. [7] Each compound was surrounded by 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall wired fences which would be locked at night so as to prevent perceived "illicit behaviour" between the patients. [13]

In a standard hut, each patient was supplied with a bed, chest of drawers, table and chair. [7] In the lazaret's later years of operation, awnings were also added to the huts in order to protect the patients from the elements. Other lazaret buildings on the island included a kitchen, dining room, bathhouses, nurses’ cottages, attendants’ quarters and caretakers’ residences. [16] For many years it was prohibited to remove the bodies of patients who had died on the island, making it necessary for them to be buried there. [13]

To this day, the site has been preserved and remains a confronting reminder of the conditions of the lazaret. [13] [17]

Life

Boredom was a real issue for patients on Peel Island. Whilst staff could freely leave the island, patients were confined there – often for many years – without a release date. Patients, mostly men, would often go fishing or do some gardening to pass the days. [9] Most patients had wireless radio sets, and in the later years of the lazaret, films were shown and dances were organised for both staff and patients. [7] Many of these social events led to marriages over the years. Staff would often spend time at Horseshoe Bay, enjoying the beach and serenity away from the centre of the lazaret.

Due to the isolation and oft-substandard living conditions, many patients and staff members enjoyed drinking. By the 1950s, the island's occupants had built a reputation among the wider mainland community for their alcohol consumption and intoxicated behaviour.

Although the Queensland Government was unwavering in its policy of isolating Hansen disease sufferers on Peel Island, issues often arose due to lack of adequate funding. Problems such as poor food supplies, inadequate medical treatment and lack of maintenance only increased the sense of deprivation among patients, as well as staff. [16] An Anglican Church of the Good Samaritan was built in the north-eastern corner of the lazaret in 1908, originally for primary use by Melanesian patients. [16] In 1925, the island's first multi-purpose medical facility was built, and the first hospital building followed in 1937. It was not until 20 years after the opening of the lazaret on Peel Island that the first medical treatment building (a surgery) was erected, and electricity was not available on the island until 1948 – 17 years after it was available on the mainland. [16]

Racial discrimination

There were dramatic disparities between the treatment of non-white patients (Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders, South Sea Islanders and Chinese) and white European patients. [12] [13] When leprosy re-emerged in the colonised world, it was viewed as an imperial disease associated with race. This was reflective of the social attitudes of the time. [12]

After much criticism of the conditions in former lazarets on both Friday Island (which held Indigenous Australians and South Seas Islanders) and Dunwich Benevolent Asylum (which held white Europeans), the opening of the new lazaret on Peel Island held both white and non-white leprosy patients for the first time in Queensland. [11] [13] This close proximity of inter-racial patients highlighted the inequality in patient care. [11] [12]

The lazaret was divided into compounds which separated white and non-white patients. [13] The accommodation and facilities for non-white patients were far less-equipped than those provided for white patients. [11] For the first three years, non-white patients were not provided with any cooking or washing facilities, and their huts were of a far lower standard than those provided to white patients. [7] Non-white patients had to carry their own firewood and water, while white patients had theirs provided for them. [13] At an inquiry into the complaints of patients in 1908, the caretaker of Peel Island highlighted various disparities in the distribution of rations. He stated "half the amount of meat, butter and tobacco allocated to whites was given to coloureds. Unlike the whites, coloured patients were not allocated beer or tapioca." [12] Many non-white patients lived in tents until their huts were constructed. In the early years of the lazaret, the huts in the non-white compound were made of corrugated iron, with corrugated iron roofs and walls. Windows were made by cutting the wall with tinsnips. At first, the floor was merely the existing dirt, which would turn to mud in the rain as there were cracks in the roofs. The floors were later covered in cement. [13] Each hut also often housed two patients, although only built and designed for one. These living conditions were extremely harsh, leaving many non-white patients sick, and it is argued that this had a direct effect on their higher death rate on the island. [9] [12] [13]

At the beginning of World War II, resources for the number of patients on the island became limited. As a result, in 1940 all 50 non-white patients detained on Peel Island were sent to Fantome Island. By 1945, 40 of the patients had died of tuberculosis leaving further speculation as to the treatment of the patients. [9] [13] Authorities recognised the segregation between the basic standard of housing and treatment provided to white versus non-white patients as early as 1912. However, it was not until much later in the operation of the lazaret that these conditions were revised and consequently improved. [9]

Patients and staff

When the lazaret first opened in 1907 there were 71 patients – 26 transferred from North Stradbroke Island, 30 from Friday Island, and 15 arriving later from Cooktown, Cairns and Halifax. [7] Over the 52 years that Peel Island was an operating lazaret, over 500 patients passed through its doors. Nearly 200 of these died, while others went into remission and eventually left the island. In some instances, the disease reoccurred, which meant patients had to return to the island, sometimes even for a third or fourth time. [7] Understandably, patients on Peel Island did not agree with the isolation "treatment" policy, and spoke up against the idea. In 1926, 35 patients petitioned to the Premier of Queensland to repeal existing legislation. A section of the petition stated: "There are patients who would astound you by their fine healthy appearance, still they are held in segregation by the cruel and unjust law in existence." [7] It would be another 33 years until the lazaret on Peel Island closed, and patients could return to their communities.[ citation needed ]

For many of the 52 years that Peel Island was an operating lazaret, it was inadequately staffed. Due to the social stigma associated with Hansen’s disease, and the perception that it was highly contagious, it was difficult to find willing nurses, doctors and maintenance staff to work on the island. [9] It was not until 1946 that the island saw its first resident doctor, despite being an institution for the sick. Before this time, patients would receive a weekly visit by a qualified doctor who would provide basic medical care. [16]

Medical treatments and cures

One of the first experimental treatments for Hansen’s disease was the short-lived drug nastin, which involved the injection of the culture of the bacillus of leprosy. [7] This was followed by the common treatment of injecting patients with oil from the Chaulmoogra nut. Although this treatment was often painful, and there was doubt as to whether it had long-term benefits, it remained a main treatment on Peel Island and around the world for more than 30 years. [20] During this time, many medical professionals believed that a good diet and a stress-free lifestyle was more likely to send the disease into remission. [21] In January 1947, Peel Island patients were treated with the first of several sulfone derivative drugs, which were developed in the United States. [7] These drugs proved the most successful in the long line of treatments for Hansen’s disease sufferers, and from then on, the disease became easy to treat.

Social consequences

Hansen’s disease was believed to be highly contagious, with mortality unavoidable. [9] Despite an increase in public understanding of this inaccuracy, this stigma had an incredibly long-lasting impact on the perception of patients on Peel Island. [22] The Queensland Health Department’s decision to allay public fears about the disease by isolating patients backfired, leading the public to believe the disease was worse than it actually was. [23] [24] Rosemary Opala described the island as "folklore" where "the mystery, however, gothic fiction|gothic, is so much more romantic and aesthetically satisfying." [22] From the relocation of patients in 1959 to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service taking responsibility in 1992, Peel Island was left relatively untouched, as some of the original stigma remained. [22] Much criticism has been levelled at the treatment of the patients on the lazaret. Hansen’s disease not only affected the ill but also their families. [9] [13] As infected patients were sent into isolation, many families were left without a breadwinner; some were driven out of communities by fear and ignorance of the disease, and others found themselves unemployed as word spread about disease in the family. [9] Furthermore, by extension, the carers of the island were viewed by many as a "people apart". Carers were viewed as "do-gooders", resented for their ability to come and go from the island at will. [22]

Closing of the lazaret

Due to the breakthrough in the treatment of Hansen’s disease in the 1940s, the need for isolating patients declined and, therefore, so did the purpose of the lazaret on Peel Island. In 1959, the lazaret officially closed, and the remaining ten patients were sent to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane to finish their treatment. [25] By this time, many of the original prejudices about Hansen’s disease had been overcome, and fear surrounding the disease had somewhat vanished. Today, several drugs are available that counteract symptoms of Hansen’s disease such as nerve damage, deformity, disability and further transmission. Researchers are also working on vaccines to prevent the disease, as well as early detection.

Peel Island Lazaret today

The isolation and limited access to Peel Island has meant that many of the original lazaret buildings still stand in original condition to this day. [25] This means that visitors can gain a unique look into a rare 20th-century institution.[ citation needed ] However, access is restricted in an effort to preserve the historic remains. As a result, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has managed the park since 1992, during which time they have restored a number of key structures, and have worked to make the island a safe place for future visitors. [26]

Heritage listings

In 1993, Peel Island was recognised for its outstanding cultural heritage, and was consequently placed on the Queensland Heritage Register and the former Register of the National Estate. [27] In December 2007, Peel Island was declared as Teerk Roo Ra (Place of Many Shells) National Park and Conservation Park. [25]

See also

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References

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  20. No Author. "History of Leprosy". Stanford University, 2005. Web. Accessed: 20/9/13
  21. Ree, Hugo, ‘Island’, UQFL Rosemary Opala Collection, Box 11, Folder 5, Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.
  22. 1 2 3 4 Opala, Rosemary. "A Legend of Leprosy in Moreton Bay". Australian Folklore. 12 (1997): 220-223. Print.
  23. Opala, Rosemary. "Sharing Lost Lives". Box 5, Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.
  24. Opala, Rosemary. "A Speck On The Map." Box 5, Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.
  25. 1 2 3 Queensland Government Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing. Teerk Roo Ra National Park – Nature, Culture and History. The State of Queensland. 2013. Web. Accessed: 14 Sep 2013
  26. FOPI Inc. "Management" and "History", Friends of Peel Island Association. Redlands City Council and Arts Queensland, 19 February 2011. Web. 28 August 2013.
  27. "Peel Island (entry 601091)". Queensland Heritage Register . Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 12 July 2013.

Further reading